New guide can prevent us all getting down in the mouth over emergency dental care

NHS England has published a series of quick guides around urgent care. Here, Eddie Crouch, Vice Chair of the British Dental Association Principal Executive Committee, looks at the guide on emergency dental care:

Toothache, when severe, can be an awful experience, so preventing it or seeking appropriate help will clearly be a priority for anyone, and especially over the festive period.

Finding the right place to help with your dental emergency benefits everyone, and this quick guide – ‘Best use of unscheduled dental care services’ – is designed to do just that.

Visiting an accident or emergency department or a GP is usually not the best place to get dental problems treated. With Christmas and New Year around the corner it can really put pressure on vital services when they are most needed for more serious conditions.

Patients should not delay seeing a dentist when they start to get symptoms as dental problems are much better dealt with sooner before serious pain develops, so seek advice from the professionals who can help you early on.

By patients and the health profession working together we can improve the service for everyone especially at a time of year when the NHS is coping with increases in patient demand.

Dentists in turn should provide clear and accessible information on where care is available when they are closed over the holidays. So get started early, placing posters in waiting rooms and on surgery doors informing what cover and out of hours care is available.

Update the details on 111 so that those using this service know when you are available and if not, who else in your area can help patients get fast and appropriate care.

Remember pharmacists are also able to assist in short term pain relief, and will help support and direct patients to the best service to treat their problems.

For those patients with the most serious of dental conditions including rapid swelling around the eye and throat, severe trauma or uncontrolled bleeding from the mouth, it would be better to be seen at an Accident & Emergency centre with special dental support. But the vast majority of people will be best seen at a dentist.

Some conditions are less serious such as chipped teeth or lost fillings with no pain, or broken dentures. Some of these problems are appropriately dealt with when routine services are available.

So don’t let dental problems spoil your festive period. Midnight on Christmas Eve is a terrible time to get toothache. By working together we can make the service work better for everyone.

So let’s all do our part. Dentists should ensure patients know where they can get the help they need, when they need it. Patients for their part should make sure they head to the right place.

Collectively we can all make a difference.

Eddie Crouch is Vice Chairman of the British Dental Association Principal Executive Committee and has worked in South Birmingham providing primary care to patients in dental practices for more than 25 years.

He is active in supporting colleagues locally via the Local Dental Committee and nationally via the BDA , and is a member of the Birmingham Black Country and Solihull Local Professional Network who advise commissioners on patient services.